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Cooking Program Study Shows How to Lose Weight, Save Money with Mediterranean Diet

Tim Boyer's picture
Losing weight and saving money on Mediterranean Diet

In the March issue of the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, researchers interested in finding solutions for food insecurity and the lack of access to nutritional foods for families on a tight budget, have found a simple method that is typically used to help people lose weight - a plant-based Mediterranean diet.

The researchers found that not only does a Mediterranean diet help families enhance their health by losing weight, but stretch their food budget dollars further as well.

According to a press release by The Miriam Hospital, the study was led by research dietitian Mary Flynn, Ph.D., RD, LDN of The Miriam Hospital in conjunction with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank who believes that her study’s findings demonstrate an attractive intervention that can help many lower-income families.

A major problem with low income families is the tendency to place most of their food budget on higher-priced items such as meats, snacks and beverages first before allocating anything to fruits and vegetables. The result is a diet that provides fewer bags of groceries per dollar spent and is nutritionally lacking to feed a hungry family.

"I had a number of people―mainly women from my breast cancer weight loss study―say how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was, so I approached the food bank about designing a study using food pantry items for the recipes," says Flynn.

In the study, Ms. Flynn recruited 83 participants from low-income housing sites and those who received food from emergency food pantries for a 34 week long study that involved an initial 6 week long cooking class program that focuses on how to shop for and prepare a plant-based Mediterranean diet heavy on cooking using virgin olive oil, brown rice, whole grain pasta, fruits and vegetables.

During the 6-week cooking class, the participants were each given a bag of groceries with enough items to provide 3 meals from recipes taught in the cooking class. After the cooking class program ended, the participants were followed for six months as the researchers kept tabs on the participants’ grocery receipts.

What the researchers found was that of the 83 participants, 63 completed the study and demonstrated a significant change in their food shopping and eating habits that reflected more of a Mediterranean diet lifestyle. There was a significant decrease In the amount of meat, snacks and beverages purchased paralled by a significant increase in fruits and vegetables bought and consumed.

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"Not only did study participants cut their food spending by more than half, saving nearly $40 per week, we also found that the reliance on a food pantry decreased as well, from 68 percent at the start of the study to 54 percent, demonstrating a clear decline in food insecurity," Flynn says.

Furthermore, the researchers also noted that approximately half of all participants lost weight and that there was an overall decrease in body mass index.

"Our results also suggest that including a few plant-based meals per week is an attainable goal that will not only improve their health and diet, but also lower their food costs," Flynn says.

For more information about the health benefits of adopting a Mediterranean diet lifestyle or incorporating a few meals per week with Mediterranean meals, follow the links listed below:

Why Mediterranean Diet Recipes Make the Best Flat Belly Food

Belly Fat Fighting Mediterranean Diet Dish Lowers High Blood Pressure, Study Says

Mediterranean Health Secrets Promoted by Dr. Oz Protects Bones, Says New Study

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference: “A Six-Week Cooking Program of Plant-Based Recipes Improves Food Security, Body Weight, and Food Purchases for Food Pantry Clients” Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition; Vol. 8, issue 1 2013; Mary M. Flynn et al.